30 Architecture and Design Books to Read

An Architect’s Record – Reflections on Work and Practice.

Thought by Hand / Flores & Prats

Combining design and building practice with intense academic studies at different universities, Flores & Prats, a leading Architecture Studio in Barcelona, now unveil the evolution of their work in multiple fields such as rehabilitation, social housing, public space, neighbour’s participation and university workshops, in their exciting first book: Thought by Hand

Yes is More / Bjarke Ingels

Yes is More is a play on words that represents the ‘overlap between radical and reality’ that is the Copenhagen-based Architectural Practice ‘BIG’ (Bjarke Ingels Group)’s ethos and sums up its irreverent attitude towards excessive formalism, and its determination to involve the population at large in its creations. As an extension of its methods and results, its debut monograph uses a relatively unique, yet approachable means of communication – the comic.

Theoretical Anxiety and Design Strategies in the Work of Eight Contemporary Architects / Rafael Moneo

Internationally acclaimed architect Rafael Moneo, known for his courageous work in the creation of the Houston Museum of Fine Art, the Stockholm Museum of Modern Art and Architecture, and the Potzdammer Platz Hotel in Berlin, now a daring critic as he analysis eight of his infamous contemporaries discusses the theoretical positions, technical innovations, and design contributions of each. Moneo’s book considers James Stirling, Robert Venturi, Aldo Rossi, Peter Eisenman, Alvaro Siza, Frank Gehry, Rem Koolhaas, and the partnership of Jacques Herzog and Pierre De Meuron.

Louis Khan: Conversations with Students (Architecture at Rice) / Louis Kahn

Conversations with Students is an amalgamation of several revealing writings on the legendary Architect Louis Khan such as a little-known essay by Kahn on his sources of inspiration, an interview with the Architect on his working methods and his vision for the future of the profession, and furthermore, writings on Kahn by Michael Bell and Lars Lerup.

Atlas of Novel Tectonics / Jesse Reiser

Architects Jesse Reiser and Nanako Umemoto see Design as a series of problem situations with the Atlas organised as an accumulation of short chapters devoted to the argument of a specific condition or case addressing the workings of matter and force, material science, the lessons of art and architectural history, and the influence of architecture on culture (and vice versa). The result is an elucidation of the concepts that guide Reiser+Umemoto through their own design process and a series of meditations on topics that have formed their own sense as architects. 

A Place of My Own: The Architecture of Daydreams / Michael Pollan

‘A room of one’s own: Is there anybody who hasn’t at one time or another wished for such a place, hasn’t turned those soft words over until they’d assumed a habitable shape?’

A Place of My Own marks the connections between our bodies, our minds and the natural world by following the insightful and surprisingly hilarious story of famed Architect Michael Pollan as he recounts the process of constructing a quaint one-room structure in rural Connecticut- a shelter where he hoped to read, write and daydream, built with his own two unhandy hands. 

Architecture through Storytelling 

Invisible Cities / Italo Calvino

‘Cities, like dreams, are made of desires and fears, even if the thread of their discourse is secret, their rules are absurd, their perspectives deceitful, and everything conceals something else.’ – from Invisible Cities

Atop a garden sits the aged Kublai Khan and the young Marco Polo — the  Mongol emperor and a Venetian traveler. Kublai Khan has sensed the end of his empire coming soon. Marco Polo diverts his host with stories of the cities he has seen in his travels around the empire: cities and memory, cities and desire, cities and designs, cities and the dead, cities and the sky, trading cities, hidden cities. Invisible Cities is a poetic rendition for those seeking something different from the usually text-book like renditions of architectural understanding. 

The Pillars of the Earth / Ken Follet

Set in 12th-century England, The Pillars of the Earth revolves around the construction of a Gothic cathedral in the fictional town of Kingsbridge. The ambitions of three men merge, conflict and collide through 40 years of social and political upheaval as internal church politics affect the progress of the cathedral and the fortunes of the protagonists. Paired with stunning graphics, an audio book has also been made of this historical epic.

History 

Architecture As Space / Bruno Zevi

This classic work examines the history of architecture in light of its essence as space, animating and illuminating architectural creations so that their beauty—or indifference—is exposed. Beautifully illustrated with examples from the entire history of the art, Architecture as Space is one of the most stimulating and provocative books ever written on the history and purpose of architecture.

The Condition of Postmodernity: An Enquiry into the Origins of Cultural Change / David Harvey

The Condition of Postmodernity is David Harvey’s social and seminal history – from the Enlightenment to the Present – of modernism and its expression in political, social, artistic, literature and architecture movements. Essentially, what does postmodernism mean? Where did it come from?

Delirious New York: A retroactive manifesto for Manhattan / Rem Koolhaas

Delirious in New York is the retroactive manifesto of 1850s Manhattan’s architectural enterprise; it untangles the theories, tactics and dissimulations that allowed New York’s architects to establish the desires of Manhattan’s collective unconscious as realities in the Grid. It proves above all, that Manhattan has been, from the beginning, devoted to the most rational, efficient and utilitarian pursuit of the irrational.

Domesticity at War / Beatriz Colomina

When American architects, designers, and cultural institutions converted wartime strategies to new ends, the aggressive promotion of postwar domestic bliss became another kind of weapon. In Domesticity at War, Beatriz Colomina explores how port-World War 2 American architecture adapted ‘weaponry into livingry’. This new form of domesticity itself turned out to be a powerful weapon. Images of American domestic bliss―suburban homes, manicured lawns, kitchen accessories―went around the world as an effective propaganda campaign. Cold War anxieties were masked by endlessly repeated images of a picture-perfect domestic environment. Here, you can read how the popular conception of the architect became domesticated, revolutionizing that of an austere modernist to a plaid-shirt wearing homebody.

Walkscapes: walking as an aesthetic practice / Francesco Careri

In Walkscapes, Francesco Careri explores the act of walking, taking a deeper look at three important moments of transitions in art history: From Dada to Surrealism (1921-1924), from the Lettrist International to the Situationist International (1956-1957), and from Minimal Art to Land Art (1966-1967). By analyzing these episodes we simultaneously obtain a history of the roamed city that goes from the banal city of Dada to the entropic city of Robert Smithson, passing through the unconscious and oneiric city of the Surrealists and the playful and nomadic city of the Situationists.

The Art in Architecture 

The Architecture of Image: Existential Space in Cinema / Juhani Pallasmaa

The infamous Juhani Pallasmaa returns to explore the shared experiential ground of cinema, art, and architecture. The Architecture of Image carefully examines how the classic directors such as Alfred Hitchcock, Stanley Kubrick, Michelangelo Antonioni, and Andrei Tarkovsky utilized architectural imagery to create emotional states in their movies.

The Art-Architecture Complex / Hal Foster

Hal Foster argues that a fusion of architecture and art is a defining feature of contemporary culture. While architects such as Zaha Hadid and Herzog and de Meuron draw on art to reanimate design, architecture has inspired fundamental transformations in painting, sculpture and film, which are also explored here. At the same time Foster points to a ‘global style’ of architecture, as practiced by Norman Foster, Richard Rogers and Renzo Piano, that is analogous to the ‘international style’ of Le Corbusier, Gropius and Mies – a global style that, more than any art, conveys the look of modernity today, both its dreams and its delusions. In these ways Foster demonstrates that The Art-Architecture Complex is a key indicator of broader social and economic trajectories and in urgent need of analysis and debate.

Architecture Theory 

Constructing a New Agenda: Architectural Theory 1993-2009 / A. Krista Sykes

Constructing a New Agenda is a collection of twenty-eight essays that address architectural theory from the mid-1990s revolving around a multitude of themes: including the impact of digital technologies on processes of architectural design, production, materiality, and representation; the implications of globalization and networks of information; the growing emphasis on sustainable and green architecture; and the phenomenon of the ‘starchitect’ and iconic architecture. By providing, in one place for these key texts of the past fifteen years, Constructing a New Agenda becomes a foundation for ongoing discussions surrounding contemporary architectural thought and practice.

Why Architecture Matters / Paul Goldberger

‘Architecture begins to matter,’ writes Paul Goldberger, ‘when it brings delight and sadness and perplexity and awe along with a roof over our heads.’ Based on decades of looking at buildings and thinking about how we experience them, Why Architecture Matters raises our awareness of fundamental things like proportion, scale, space, texture, materials, shapes, light, and memory. Upon completing this remarkable architectural journey, readers will enjoy a wonderfully rewarding new way of seeing and experiencing every aspect of the built world.

Non-Places: An Introduction to Supermodernity / Marc Auge

Year after year, an ever-increasing proportion of our daily lives is spent in supermarkets, airports and hotels, on motorways or in front of TVs, computers and cash machines. This invasion of the world by what Marc Augé calls ‘non-space’ results in a profound alteration of awareness: something we perceive, but only in a partial and incoherent manner. In Non-Place, Augé uses the concept of ‘supermodernity’ to describe a situation of excessive information and excessive space. In this fascinating essay he seeks to establish an intellectual armature for an anthropology of supermodernity.

The Hidden Dimension / Edward T. Hall

There is no denying people like to keep a certain degree of distance between themselves and other people/things. Their ‘territory’, an invisible bubble is what Edward T.Hall constitutes a key dimension of Modern Society. In The Hidden Dimension he introduces the science of proxemics to demonstrate how man’s use of space can affect personal and business relations, cross-cultural interactions, architecture, city planning, and urban renewal.

Simmel on Culture: Selected Writings / Georg Simmel

Architecture often simultaneously emultes and influences Culture. Now join German sociologist and philosopher Georg Simmel (1858-1918) with these collection of Selected Writings exploring Culture in all its forms: the culture of face-to-face interactions; spatial and urban culture; leisure culture; the culture of money and commodities; the culture of belief; and the politics of female culture. 

An Architect’s Essentials

The Language of Architecture / Andrea Simitch and Val Warke

The Language of Architecture provides students and professional architects with the basic elements of architectural design, divided into twenty-six easy-to-comprehend chapters. Whether you’re new to the field or have been an architect for years, you’ll want to flip through the pages of this book and use it as your go-to reference for inspiration and ideas. This comprehensive learning tool is the one book you’ll want as a staple in your library.

Experiencing Architecture / Eiler Rasmussen

Wide ranging and approachable, Experiencing Architecture takes us on a journey from teacups to riding roots, from golf balls to the villas of Palladio and the fish-feeding pavilion of Beijing’s Winter Palace to invite us to appreciate architecture not only as a profession, but as an art that shapes everyday experience. It is an ever so frequent reminder of what good design has accomplished, what it can accomplish still and why it is worth pursuing.

The Eyes of the Skin / Juhani Pallasmaa

For any budding Architect, studying Pallasmaa’s Eyes of the Skin is a classic text providing one with an insightful understanding of Architecture as a whole through the simple question why, when there are five senses, has one single sense – sight – dominated architectural culture and design? 

Compilations

Future Practice: Conversations from the Edge of Architecture / Rory Hyde

Designers around the world are constantly carving out opportunities for new kinds of engagement, new kinds of collaboration, new kinds of design outcomes, and new kinds of practice, overturning the inherited assumptions of the past. Future Practice contains seventeen conversations with practitioners from the fields of architecture, policy, activism, design, education, research, history, community engagement and more, each representing an emergent role for designers to occupy.

Tschumi on Architecture: Conversations with Enrique Walker / Enrique Walker

This fascinating volume presents, in a sequence of ten in depth ‘conversations’, his autobiography in architecture, from his conceptual proposals of the early 1970s through his major current buildings and projects including Parc de la Villette in Paris; Le Fresnoy National Studio for Contemporary Arts in Tourcoing, France; and the New Acropolis Museum in Athens. Also included are Tschumi’s conceptual works and writings such as The Manhattan Transcripts and Architecture and Disjunction.

Architecture and the City

Collage City / Colin Rowe and Fred Koetter

Collage City is a critical reappraisal of contemporary theories of urban planning and design and of the role of the architect-planner in an urban context. The authors, rejecting the grand utopian visions of ‘total planning’ and ‘total design’, propose instead a ‘collage city’ which can accommodate a whole range of utopias in miniature.

The Death and Life of Great American Cities / Jane Jacobs

The Death and Life of Great American Cities argues that urban diversity and vitality were being destroyed by powerful architects and city planners. Rigorous, sane, and delightfully epigrammatic, Jane Jacobs’s book is a blueprint for the humanistic management of cities. Till this day, remains a sensible, knowledgeable, readable, and indispensable resource on the topic of Urban Planning. 

The Urban Apparatus: Mediapolitics and the City / Reinhold Martin

Blending critical philosophy, political theory, and media theory, The Urban Apparatus explores how the aesthetics of cities and their political economies overlap. In a series of ten essays, with a detailed theoretical introduction, Martin explores questions related to urban life, drawn from a wide range of global topics—from the fiscal crisis in Detroit to speculative development in Mumbai to the landscape of Mars, from discussions of race and the environment to housing and economic inequality with the aim of answering the question ‘What is a city, today?’

Architecture and Sustainability 

The Barefoot Architect / Johan van Lengen

As a former UN worker and prominent Architect, Johan van Lengen has seen firsthand the desperate need for a ‘greener’ approach to housing in impoverished tropical climates. This comprehensive book clearly explains every aspect of this endeavor, including design (siting, orientation, climate consideration), materials (sisal, cactus, bamboo, earth), and implementation. With an emphasis on what is inexpensive and sustainable, Barefoot Architecture includes a multitude of in depth explanations for urban planning, small-scale energy production, cleaning and storing drinking water, and dealing with septic waste, and all information is applied to three distinct tropical regions: humid areas, temperate areas, and desert climates.

City Sense and City Design: Writings and Projects of Kevin Lynch / Kevin Lynch

An invaluable sourcebook of design knowledge, City Sense and City Design completes the record of one of the foremost environmental design theorists of our time, leading to a deeper understanding of his distinctively humanistic philosophy ,and how he translated many of his ideas and theories into practice.